Ghost Stories – The Dark Side of M12 Drafting

…I looked and I saw the ghosts dotting plain and mound:
They stood in blank moonlight,
But no shadow lay on the ground:
The spoke without a voice
And they leaped without a sound.

- Excerpt from “Chilly Night,” Christina Rosetti -

Salve, dear limited fans,

It has been a long while since I found the time to put some of my MtG-related thoughts into writing, but the appearance of the new Core Set, as well as a few interesting Drafts, has encouraged me to share some new M12 strategy. In this short article, I would like to explore a specific archetype you can draft, which, in my humble opinion, works surprisingly well considering that the decklists often look like a pile of mediocre creatures. I am talking about…


For the past several days, I have been experimenting with this archetype, and to my readers’ benefit have tried picking cards in a weird order. I have done so in order to explore how profitable it might be to brutally force an archetype and take cards over others that, in a vacuum, appear to be much stronger cards. As a result of this experiment, my tentative conclusion was that my decks played out much better than I would have expected. I would like to share a Draft I participated in, in which the previously mentioned pick order is apparent. Then I will discuss the build I made and talk about general strategies regarding this archetype. I played in several Drafts where I opened a bunch of black bombs and had a generally strong selection of cards, but I would like to direct your attention to a rather mediocre pool that still went extremely well for me:

As you can see, the selection of cards we have to our disposal is not amazing, but we should be able to pile enough playables together. It is worth noting that we did not see a single Drifting Shade, which is a shame as it is a card that is particularly strong in our archetype. We have to assume that there was at least one other person playing heavy black. As I spoiled earlier, the deck did pretty well even without it, which is probably an indicator of how well this archetype might work when you are not competing for those cards and they table. Let’s have a look at the deck I played.

You will notice that I played seventeen lands in the deck, that I have no or little card draw, and that my curve is pretty low. Often, in this archetype, I only play sixteen lands. Since a deck like this doesn’t rely on hitting the second color early, it can afford to play a bit less land. While I will not go through the games, since there are plenty of articles/videos that provide such entertainment, I’ll share that I won the Draft, even while frequently staring at cards in my hand and on my side of the battlefield that screamed at me: “Did you really want to play with me in your deck!?” But the team did well.

Finally, I will talk about the cards I feel you should look out for if you think to draft this archetype, and share and a few general tips for playing the deck.

A few general tips for playing the archetype:

  • Play aggressively and remove early blockers with your cheap removal spells.
  • Try to bait out removal with other creatures before you slam a Dark Favor on your Tormented Soul.
  • If your opponent is playing with direct damage, consider avoiding pumping your Shade to the full extent in order to be able to ‘counter’ Shock or Incinerate. Depending on the board situation, you might not have that luxury.
  • Time your Smallpox so you can hit a bigger creature standing in your way, while only sacrificing less important resources (excess land, disabled creatures, etc.).

I hope you give the archetype a try (unless I am in the queue, too!) and let me know how it works for you. As usual, leave suggestions, ideas, and comments below.

Marin Baraba (Plejades)

  1. Neat article and a cool draft concept. I do have a few questions though.
    First, when you started the draft did you go in with the plan of being mono-black? Looter is arguably a fair bit better than Automaton, but not if you’re unwilling to play multi-colored out of the gates.
    Second, you list an ideal mono-black list, but don’t rank the cards in any real order. If I open a Doom Blade and a Vampire Outcasts, which should I take for mono-black? What about in general?
    Finally, it’s awesome that you won the draft and I know that there are plenty of draft videos/walkthroughs online, but it would be cool to hear at least a little gameplay analysis from someone new.

  2. Yeah, good idea. As for the Automation, I prefer to have options to chosse colors later (at least to be able to pick any bomb I open in pack 2), hence I would not go to a second color for the Looter, if there is a good card in my colors. And I would pick the Automation anyway after getting a lord. Mmm, 4/4 zombie tokens…

  3. Hello and thanks for the comments.

    I was already planning to force mono black for that draft, especially after getting the Reaper P1P1. I am not a real fan of static pick orders as they often change depending on what you have already picked. Generally you can apply the, admittedly blurry, but popular order Bomb>Removal>Rest. The quality of the creatures in this deck is not the highest priority as you will get passed cards you want such as Tormented Soul, Drifting Shadow, etc. pretty late.

    I will try to get some screenshots in next time but the point is really to display the archetype and then let my readers supply the game play :-)

  4. First draft after I read this I opened a Grave Titan P1P1! So far I am 2-0 in the draft and my games have not been close. It also helps that I got 2 consume spirit and Call to the Grave. I did end up needing to splash a small bit of green for two cards, but certainly a fun draft.

  5. Hello platipus!

    Glad that it worked for you. The Grave Titan is certainly a huge bomb and helps a lot. I think that splashing a few cards for some off color bombs actually works pretty well unless you overdo it. The power of the archetype really lies in the Consume Spirits, Drifting Shadows, and other heavy black cards that people pass to you later on. Have fun!